Board Committee Amends Thrive Montgomery 2050 Housing Chapter

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The County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) committee met on Monday to review and refine the “Affordable and Accessible Housing: More of Everything” chapter of Thrive Montgomery 2050. Thrive Montgomery 2050 is the setting update proposed by the county for the Wedges and Corridors plan, which began in the 1960s.

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A county council committee on Monday made some minor changes to a controversial part of Thrive Montgomery 2050: how the county should approach its housing goals.

Members of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, their staff, and planning staff reviewed the “Affordable and Accessible Housing: More of Everything” chapter of the plan.

This chapter says county officials need to build more homes than in recent years to keep up with overall population growth. These dwellings can be of all kinds, specifies the plan: “small houses, cottages, duplexes, multiplexes and small apartment buildings; colocation, cohabitation, secondary housing (ADU), social housing and cooperative housing.

It also urges authorities to seek more opportunities to increase residential density where appropriate, such as along major corridors, and to adopt more flexible regulations to allow for more infill development and redevelopment and reuse of office parks. , shopping centers and other similar properties.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is the county’s proposed update to the Wedges and Corridors plan, which originated in the 1960s and was last updated in 1993.

The Wedges and Corridors plan outlined how growth should occur along major highway corridors in Montgomery and Prince George counties. Now, with the growth of the region, Thrive Montgomery is focusing solely on Montgomery County.

Committee chair Hans Riemer and board members Will Jawando and Andrew Friedson mostly agreed with the changes proposed by board and planning staff at a meeting on Monday.

They discussed the different types of housing, including “social housing”. Riemer said this term seems to describe an actual building type in the plan, when it is actually an idea of ​​how to build particular communities with housing that is both affordable and at market price. .

Riemer said the Purple Line corridor – a 16-mile light rail line planned between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince George County – is a prime example of where “social housing” should be considered. .

“I would really like the county to adopt this vision for this region, so that we express that it will be an economic engine and that it will be a place of increasing prosperity,” said Riemer. “And at the same time, there is a vision for how it will be inclusive on a permanent basis.”

On several occasions, committee members, board staff, and planning staff have said that the Thrive Montgomery 2050 proposals are “visionary” recommendations, not policies that will become law if the plan is passed.

County executive Marc Elrich has opposed much of the current version of Thrive Montgomery 2050, arguing that it is not doing enough to bring more affordable housing to the county and that it will not result in not the job creation that its supporters claim.

Aseem Nigam, the county’s housing and community affairs department director, said he was concerned that there were not enough “teeth” in the plan to encourage more affordable housing to be built. .

Nigam was concerned that the plan focused a lot on market-priced housing and average housing, but not so much on affordable housing, which is sorely lacking in the county.

Riemer, who runs against Elrich in the Democratic primary for the county executive next year, disagrees.

“I just can’t agree that the general plan we envision in Thrive Montgomery 2050… doesn’t speak forcefully about affordable housing,” Riemer said. “I mean, we’ve been talking about affordable housing all day. “

Overall, the housing chapter of the plan states that existing affordable housing needs to be preserved and more affordable housing needs to be built to meet demand.

Overall, however, Thrive Montgomery 2050 indicates that various types of housing need to be built to meet demand.

“Building a greater variety of housing sizes and types and emphasizing affordability and accessibility will help diversify the mix of income in neighborhoods across the county, thereby improving access to services, amenities and infrastructure for low and moderate income residents. , who are disproportionately people of color, ”the plan says.

Towards the end of the meeting, Friedson warned that while Elrich and council members disagree on Thrive Montgomery and the county’s future planning, it is important to recognize that this is a visionary document and not a concrete policy.

“The idea that you would add teeth to something that is a vision is incongruous,” Friedson said.

The PHED committee is nearing the end of its work with Thrive Montgomery. Pamela Dunn, senior legislative analyst for the county council, said the committee could finalize its version by the end of October and send it to the whole council.

The county council would have about a month and a half, a tight deadline, if it wants to finalize and vote on the plan before its winter recess, Dunn said.

Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]


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